(1) This is a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution praying for issuance of a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ striking down the vires of Section 51 of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, (8 of 1953).
(2) The facts on the basis of which the prayer is made are that the petitioners were occupancy tenants of one Ram Dass of village Oyal, tehsil Kanda Ghat, district Simla. This Ram Dass is said to have gifted all his property to the petitioner-tenants. On his death, the State of Pepsu resumed the land of Ram Dass as nazul area despite the petitioners' protest. The appeals and revisions of the petitioners were said to have been unsuccessful. The petitioners for the last 20 years have been giving bids and have been getting the lease of the land in their favour from year to year. The petitioners claim the benefit of Section 22 of this Act which enables a tenant who has been in cultivating possession of land for twelve years to become the landlord on payment of compensation by installments. The petitioners also stated that they were willing to purchase the said land according to the provisions of the Act, but the authorities had not favourably entertained their petition in view of the provisions of Section 51 which the petitioners now pray to the struck down as ultra vires of the Constitution.
Section 51 of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955, grants exemption of certain lands from the provisions of the Act. It reads.
'51. Exemption of certain lands. The provisions of this Act shall not apply to-
(a) Lands owned by or vested in the State Government otherwise than under the provisions of this Act,
(b) Lands vested in the Central Government which have not been transferred to an allottee either on permanent or quasi-permanent basis,
a. Now see Pepsu Act 13 of 1955--Ed.
b. As substituted by Pepsu Act 15 of 1956--Ed.
(c) lands belonging to any religious or charitable institution but not to a Mahant, Mohtamim or manager thereof;
(d) lands granted to any members of the Armed Forces of the Union for gallantry:
(e) private lands leased by the government;
(f) lands belonging to or vested in a Panchayat or a local authority;
(g) Nazool lands transferred by the State Government to co-operative societies formed by persons belonging to Scheduled Castes;
(h) lands to which the Pepsu Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1955 (25 of 1955) applies.'
(3) Mr. Lakhan Pal, learned counsel for the petitioners contends that Section 51 generally and in particular sub-section (a) is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. His contention is that an invidious distinction is being created between a tenant of an individual landlord as against the tenant of the Government. The former has certain privileges which are being denied to the latter.
(4) Article 14 of the Constitution provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of law within the territory of India. This means that the State shall not discriminate between two individuals similarly circumstanced. This article does not ban any possible discrimination in favour of the State itself. It was held by a Division Bench of this Court in Shiv Prasad v. Punjab State, (S) AIR 1957 Punj 150, that where the State acting as such reserves to itself certain rights which are denied to other persons in similar circumstances, the provisions of Article 14 are not violated. In State v., AIR 1958 All 432, it was observed that the State as representing the society is not included in the word 'person' in Article 14; and, merely because the State has been given the right of appeal against appellate order of acquittal which right has not been given to a private individual, there is no discrimination under Article 14 of the Constitution. On this reasoning, it was held that Section 417(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure was not ultra vires of the Constitution. The above cited decision of this court was relied upon.
Reference may also be made to Abdul Ail Abdul Rahman v. Mst. Jannat, (S) AIR 1957 All 552, In re Krishnayya, (S) AIR 1957 Andh Pra 163, and Bank of India v. John Bowman, (S) AIR 1955 Bom 305. In Baburao Shantaram v. Bombay Housing Board, 1954 SCR 572: (AIR 1954 SC 153), Das J., said
'The contention is that Section 4 discriminates against the tenants of properties belonging to the Government local authority or the Board in that these tenants are denied and benefits of the Bombay Rent Act which are available to all other tenants in Bombay. There can be no question that this exemption is given by Section 4 to certain classes of tenants and this classification is based on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes them from other tenants and this differentia has a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. It is the business of the Government to solve the accommodation problem & satisfy the public need of housing accommodation. It was for the purpose of achieving this object that the Board was incorporated and established. It is not to be expected that the government or local authority or the Board would be actuated by any profit making motive so as to unduly enhance the rents or eject the tenants from their respective properties as private landlords are or are likely to be. Therefore, the tenants of the Government or local authority or the Board are not in need of such protection as the tenants of private landlords are and this circumstance is a cogent basis for differentiation. The two classes of tenants are not by force of Circumstances placed on an equal footing and the tenants of the government or local authority or the Board Cannot, therefore, complain of any denial of equality before the law or of equal protection of the law. There is here no real discrimination, for the two classes are not similarly situated.'
In Manna Lal v. Collector of Jhalawar, AIR 1961 SC 828 the contention was that in so far as Rajasthan Public Demands Recovery Act (5 of 1952) enabled moneys due to the Government in respect of its trading activities, for instance, that of a banker, to be recovered by way of public demand, it offended Article 14 of the Constitution. In so far as the Act made a distinction between other bakers and the Government as a banker, in respect of recoveries of moneys due, it was held that the government, even as a banker, could be legitimately put in a separate class. The dues of the Government of a State are the dues of the entire people of the State. This being the position, a law giving special facility for the recovery of such dues could not, in any event, be said to offend Article 14 of the Constitution.
(5) According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of Presidents' Act, No.8 of 1953, which was similarly worded as the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955-
'Relationship between the landlords and tenants in Pepsu are strained resulting in an explosive situation. Legislation to amend and consolidate the existing law in the State relating to tenancies of agricultural lands and to provide for certain measures of land reforms on the lines undertaken by the adjoining State of Punjab is not only necessary but also urgent. The Bill also seeks to give effect to some of the recommendations made by the Pepsu Agrarian Reforms Committee appointed to examine the system of land tenure in the State.'
The Act was passed with a view to meet the contingency which had arisen as a result of tension prevailing between the landlords and tenants. Section 51 of the Act is in no way violative of the purposes of the Act as it is based upon an intelligible differentia and has a rational basis. Moreover, the object of the Act was to prevent the rapacity of the individual landlords which would not be the case where the tenant is of the Government.
(6) For reasons stated above, the contention of the petitioner is without merit. The petition fails and is dismissed. In the circumstances, the parties are left to bear their own costs.